Delegation is critical for leaders in terms of production, employee engagement and developing their people. In Episode #26 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley will explore the art of delegation (no, this is not the same as micromanaging), including a five step approach that can help leaders develop their own plan for delegating more and learn what they should and should not delegate to their team members.

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Welcome to the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.

Today’s topic is called Delegation Basics, or as John likes to say, look out below. I found that delegation is one of those topics were we as leaders, we talk about a lot and we act like we do it, but not everybody’s really that good at it. What does a leader need to do to be skilled at the art of delegation? Well, I think this is really two areas of the 5 Levels of Leadership that come into play here. Level 3 around the production. You know, I think that we will produce more as we bring our team and get them involved. And then also from a Level 4, right? This the beginning stages of us beginning to reproduce ourselves, beginning to develop other people.

We’ve talked about the 5 Levels of Leadership and it is a simple model that John has created some 20 years ago. However, it can be used in many complex ways in different situations. This is a great example to give you a little bit of a different view or dimension of it because I think as you think about delegation, it’s going to fall into Level 3 and Level 4 as a leader. And, remember that you’re going to be on different levels with different people at different times and so it’s going to flow just like that. But when it comes to delegation, I think it’s important for a leader kind of in two different areas, and I’m going to break it down for you.

At Level 3, I think that increases the leaders productivity. We say that it’s the production level, what you’re developing, what you’re producing for the organization, not only individually but in and through teams. And then at Level 4, I made a note here just to better equip the team that you have begin to raise them up and develop them. Fantastic. Well, we also talked a lot about employee engagement and the struggle that many leaders have with fully engaging their teams. What are your thoughts about delegation, proper delegation as a way to increase employee engagement? Well, I think it’s key because if you don’t do it, what’s going to happen is you’ll have disempowered employees. You’ll have demotivated employees, there’ll be disengaged, completely opposite of what we are trying to to talk about today to make a point on increasing your engagement.

And so we really have to focus on doing it correctly. We have to delegate properly in order to make sure that the skills are there to those that we are delegating to. And if you do that, the members of your team they’ll have an increase in engagement. Now, if you delegate something to someone who doesn’t have that skill set, and by the way that’s your responsibility as a leader to make sure that there’s an alignment there, then what’s going to happen is you will not have increased production. You will not have a increased engagement level. What you’ll do is you have increased frustration with the team member, the employee, and that’s opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish.

So I think through what I can just speak for myself, the struggles I’ve always had a when leading a team that when the delegate and what to delegate. I think sometimes it’s almost a hate to say this kind of cliche, but it’s just you want it done right, do it yourself. But that is a productivity, personal productivity killer for me. And it also doesn’t equip the team as you’re just saying. So what about when and what? Yeah, I think this is a great question. I think this is really the key to delegation to many people just think of delegation as a high level of thought and hey, I’m going to have Perry do this, but, but really you have to think about, you know, the when and the what and, and there’s a couple of things that John has really enlightened me with over the years and I talk about it a lot with different organizations that we work with are different times that we’re on the road speaking keynotes and 5 Levels. He says if someone can do it better than you can, let them do it. As leaders, a lot of us have pride issues. That’s an ego, right? Like we want to keep everything as close to our chest as possible. That includes even some knowledge and things that we have that we don’t want to share with our team members. I’m not even talking cross departmentally. I’m talking about it inside our own team and we have to get to a point to where we become kind of an open book and we allow our team to begin to know what we know and to learn what we learned. And I promise you leaders, it’s okay, but there are people on your team that can do things better than you’re doing them right now. We just need to let them do that. The other thing he talks a lot about, this kind of falls under this, but he says even if they can’t do it better than you right now, if they can do it as 80 percent as good as you can, let them do it.

And then he always says, just take a chill pill and relax because they’re going to make mistakes and, it’s not going to be as good as you can do it initially. But if they can do it as 80 percent as good as you can, let them do it. Because here’s what’s going to happen. We talk about this a Level 3 production, Level 4 kind of partnership. When we allow somebody to do something and they know that the time that we can do it better than they, it’s going to begin to create a conversation between unit and team member of how to do a better. They’re going to come to you, they’re going to approach you, they’re going to ask you, this can begin to build this mentoring relationship, and then what’ll happen is you’ll see them probably do it 90 percent as good as you, and then 95 percent as good as you then hold on back to our first point we just mentioned there.

They’re going to be able to do it better than you can from the get go. What I would encourage you in this area right here is to just start as you think about this, start with and think through small projects that maybe you currently have that you can delegate under those two items that I just talked about. Maybe even ones that don’t have to be completed exactly a certain way so that even if they kind of drift one way or another, the projects still getting completed. And then, make sure you leave ample time for completion of that project because there’s going to be mistakes and you’re going to have to kind of help redirect them and walk them through that.

Fantastic. Well, I know John teaches a five step approach to delegate and when we just walk through that quickly, maybe helps to develop their own plan for delegating more. Yeah. Number one, he says, Hey, make sure you are communicating to the team what you want them to do. Okay? Now we could unpack that sentence because there’s a lot to learn right there, especially just starting with the first word of communicate, but make sure that you are helping them see the outcome, see your vision for the project, see what success looks like. I think a great question for you to ask your leader oftentimes is, man, I’m so excited. Thanks so much for the opportunity to work on this project. What does success look like for you at the end of this? So that we can make sure that we have proper alignment in that. The other thing is we talk a lot about the why and Simon has written a great book. A lot of people talk about it. I think it’s important for the team member to know the why behind the project that you’re delegating to and as a leader, what I want you to do is be able to tie the why behind the project, whatever it might be, to the bigger cause of the organization, to the department first, the organization second. It’ll get them bought in a lot more than that.

Here’s the other thing, the last thing I thought about when we were talking about this and Greg Kagel, one of our executive facilitators, does a lot of work around this area for us, and it made me think about this, is that make sure that as you’re communicating to your team, you understand the personality behind who you’re communicating to. Everybody needs to be communicated to differently because we either have a why or a how language, right? And he talks a little bit about this as we go through one of our trainings. And, so what we have to make sure is that we know who we’re communicating to so that we can communicate to them in the way that they need to be communicated to and it’s either going to be a why or a how language.

John says that show what good performance looks like. It’s about making sure the people that you’re delegating to have the training to do the task that you’re asking them to do, that you’re delegating them. Yeah. You know, we talked about this a little bit early on in this podcast. There’s nothing more frustrating or will disengage an employee faster than is it if they’re not skilled or set up well to accomplish the project. I know for me personally, you know, there are some areas that I’m just not skilled at and when someone passes that down to me and asks me to do it, it gets extremely frustrating. So just make sure that you are, you have alignment when it comes to that and your team member’s skill set. John said that number three, he just says, man, listen, let them do it. Right? And I know that.

It sounds funny, but I want to make sure we also clarify for our listeners that there’s a difference between delegation and micromanaging. Alright. So make sure that you understand that and they are experiencing hands on real time experience with the project versus you kind of hovering or you know, being the helicopter, a team leader and then the other thing I’d say is expected them to mess up, right. Set proper expectations on both sides so that there’s not a gap there between yourself and the team member and when there are speed bumps and when there are a little bit of failures that they don’t speak that negative language and into their mindset.

Right. I know we’ve talked before on the podcast about kind of accidentally diminishing the capabilities of people by being a protector or rescuer. I think because of my relationship bent, I’ll give you something. I’ll see you struggle and then I’ll rush in and do it. Yeah. And I hope I’m not thinking I just want it done right. I’ll do it myself. No, I’m trying to learn that if I can just empower you and train you, equip you, that you can actually, like you said, learn to do it better than me. Usually that’ll actually increase your capabilities and increase your engagement.

Number four, John talks about observe the performance. How is that different from let them do the work? Yeah, I think it was President Reagan said trust but verify. Right? Right. Like we have to get to that point as a leader and we can’t assume that the delegated work is going to get completed. We’re going to delegate the responsibility, but listen to me leaders, we’re not delegating the accountability for that project. And so if our CEO asked me to do something and I feel like that skill set is best set with one of my other team members, while I may pass the responsibility onto the other team member, the accountability for getting that thing accomplished on behalf of our CEO is going to be with me and not that team member. So we just need to make sure. And then the other thing is make sure we’re monitoring and measuring the progress, make sure we have some type of benchmark that you guys are looking at together and you’re walking them through that process and make sure that you guys are having frequent dialogue so that we are on the same course, on the same track, that we know what the expectations are between each other.

I’ll move quickly into number five that John says here. And, so finally he says, man, praise progress, right? What gets rewarded gets repeated. That’s fantastic. And I think of times when I delegated something to someone, came back to follow up and they hadn’t really started and I was baffled by that. And so what’s the problem? I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t really know how to start. So I was thinking about it, I was planning. I thought, well maybe if I had to kept a little closer tabs, don’t just look out below, just don’t drop it on people, but actually do these five steps. So, I guess providing feedback and coaching is always a good time in these projects to provide some coaching on the delegated work and really make sure that they know how they got to the results.

Yeah. It’s back to the Level 4 that we talked about. You want to begin to reproduce leaders and reproduce a team and team members that are getting things done, producing at Level 3 that you have to have that conversation. You have to be coaching, you have to be mentoring. Well, as we kind of wrap up, I know you have a couple of thoughts. I want to share a couple things too before we do that. I was thinking about this as we were preparing and I thought, okay, there are two things that I want to make sure that people understand when it comes to delegation. You know, the first one is when is it better not to delegate? That’s the first one. The second one is what are absolutely some things that I feel like you cannot delegate. And there’s a big list I think in each one of these by just pulled out a couple that I want to share with our listeners.

So the first one is, when is it better not to delegate? Here’s a couple of things that I want you to keep in your mind wandhen this goes back to what you just said a minute ago. When the task has not been fully thought through. As a leader, if you haven’t fully thought through what this task looks like and the end state, don’t delegate it, right? Don’t delegate it because you’re going to mess up at Level 3 and you’re going to mess up a Level 4 and then they’re never going to come back to you. You get delegated ambiguity, right? I don’t know, just go get that thing done and I just go get it done. The second one is if you really enjoy doing something, now I was hesitant in putting this down because a lot of us leaders think we enjoy everything that we do. But if we really had some true self reflection and awareness, there are some things that we don’t enjoy doing, but if we really enjoy doing it and then maybe it makes sense for you to keep that. The last one that I wrote down, and again, this list could be a lot bigger than this is when you can learn from doing it yourself. I think that a lot of times for me, credibility of a leader that I worked for is that I know that they know what it takes to get that done. Whatever it is, right? There’s not a lot of assumption from them and you should be able to get that done in two days. And I’m like, you have no idea. It’s not two days. Right? And so I think as a leader, if you can learn something new by doing it the first time, then you need to do it the first time and figure that out.

My son told me in the, in his Chick Fil A restaurant, it became a lot easier to delegate the cleaning of the restroom once the teams saw him cleaning the restroom, no doubt about it. And that, so that he actually, you show that I’m not just delegating because I don’t want to do the work I’m delegating because I have other higher level things that could be doing. But I know how to clean the restroom. Yeah. Leaders go first, right? You need to model the way. The second thing I want to share here is when I think you can absolutely not delegate. I wrote down a couple of things here just to share with you leaders. This is, I almost think that this is common knowledge, but I just felt like I had to say it. I don’t think you can delegate the vision of your department, of your team, of the organization. You can’t communicate your vision to somebody else and delegate that. They then go cast that vision to everybody else that has to come from you. And in today’s technology there’s all kinds of different ways to do it. You know, our CEO sends out a weekly, you know, vlog where we’re actually able to kind of see him communicate and cast that vision and reinforce that with us.

The second one is leading any kind of change here, right? Like there’s like, yeah, I’m out, like we need to do this but I’m going to let Perry do that. I’m out. Right? And then all of a sudden Perry becomes kind of the bad guy and there’s a lot of things that go wrong in that area. But we cannot delegate leading change. And then the final one that I just wrote down, this is kind of relevant to what we do inside The John Maxwell Company is I don’t think you can delegate your part as a leader of the onboarding and training process of bringing new team members on. If you want to immediately start with a higher morale, higher engagement level with team members that are joining. Make sure that you are part of. I’m not saying you need to lead it, I’m not saying you need to drive it, but you need to carve out time on your calendar to be a part of the onboarding and training process of those that are joining your team.

Very good. Well, as we wrap, I just had one final thought as I looked at this lesson and we talked about it, the how do you actually delegate to everybody on the team? And I thought that, you know, we’re both fans of Michael Hyatt and saw that he had a very great article on I’m kind of setting up the stages if you would of delegation. He does not delegate everything to every body on the team. So just quickly that he said that, you know, stage one might be you just tell somebody to do exactly what I need you to do. And stage two might be doing some research, come back to me and we’ll talk about what can we do. Stage three might be you research the topic, outline the options, and then you make a recommendation to me, I want to see how you think. Level four might be, make a decision on what to do and then tell me what you did. Keep me in the loop and then stage five would be make whatever decision you think is best, and I thought why is that important? How many times did I delegate to someone? I’m thinking low Level 2 or stage two, they’re thinking stage five that they have it. They just go and take action when they’re not equipped or prepared or ready and I know they aren’t, but I just kind of left the lookout below. I just pitched it without actually equipping them on those stages. What I love about that, what you just shared is that creates a common language for the leader and the team member about delegation and so I love that and I appreciate you sharing that because I think that that you see, I think that having that common language would help you communicate and decrease any gaps that you might have. Well, great stuff. Hope you guys enjoyed today’s lesson.

Also, as a reminder, if you would like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop to your organization, please go to We would also welcome any questions or thoughts you may have about leadership on that site that Perry and I will be able to answer in future podcasts for you. Thank you for joining us. This has been the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast.